Idol Loves Idol

The Best Idol Blog Ever
Obsessive analysis of American Idol.
May 24 2007 3:31 PM

Idol Loves Idol

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Smokey Robinson on American Idol. Click image to expand.
Smokey Robinson performs with American Idol contestants

Jody,

Hold on, I'm breathing in the moment. Wait, was that my now?

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So, this week we learned that American Idol is "the biggest show in the world" and "the best singing competition ever in the history of television," and that Daughtry is "the entire music industry's biggest-selling artist of the year." Then Clive Davis gave Carrie Underwood an award for being a supersuccessful Idol graduate. Ryan and Simon even made it into the list of Golden Idol nominees. And the award for most self-congratulatory television program? I think we have a winner.

I do have to admire the clever way that Idol makes itself so important, insinuating itself into American music history by pairing up its top contestants with iconic figures such as Gladys Knight and Doug E. Fresh (loved "The Show" remix!) and Joe Perry. Those juxtapositions automatically imply a comparison of superstar talent, that the Idols live up to the standards set by their musical parents and grandparents. This is one of the things the show does best, creating a sense of dynasty and collapsing time, the feeling that Idol and its progeny are just part of the natural progression of things. And all the arrogance is strategically tempered with the show's charity efforts, of which we were insistently reminded last night by the repeat appearance by the African Children's Choir and Green Day's contribution to the Campaign To Save Darfur.

Your comparison of Green Day's selection, "Working Class Hero," to "This Is My Now" is right on—they both have really limited harmony. The difference is that Lennon knew how to make the most out of one chord! Speaking of Lennon, I wonder why all the Beatles songs made it to this episode and not British Invasion Week back in March? Blake and Jordin were sweet in their opening duet of "I Saw Her Standing There," but that "Sgt. Pepper" medley, I'm sure included in honor of the big anniversary, fell pretty flat. Actually, a lot of songs fell flat, and sharp, since it seemed that something about the sound system at the Kodak was preventing performers from finding their pitch. Almost everyone, from Blake to Bette, to Carrie and her fiddle player in "I'll Stand by You," was at some point distressingly off key. When Chris Sligh sang "What would you think if I sang out of tune?" my friend snarked, "I wouldn't be surprised!"

There was some good singing, too! I loved Tony Bennett, but in the category of old-school stars who sound exactly like they did 30 years ago, the champ was definitely Smokey Robinson. He was indeed classy as he sang "Tears of a Clown" with the Top 6 guys subbing for the Miracles and doing adorable, synchronized Motown choreography. They all wore "Idol Gives Back" white suits, including Smokey—just like Elvis in the duet with Celine, a memory that briefly made me doubt the actuality of Smokey's presence. I mean, from now on, how do we know that all of the iconic Idol guest stars aren't really dead and just being rotoscopically resurrected? This show really messes with my head.

So, David Hasselhoff didn't cry this time. He was kvelling in the audience when the results were announced. (But Bette Midler's painful "Wind Beneath My Wings" sure affected Jerry Springer, who was weeping like Sanjaya's fangirl. Hey, do you think one day there will be an opera about American Idol?) Yes, Jordin's win seemed right—and, you know, she might be OK after all. Don't underestimate the boost a teenage singer can get from a good Disney gig.

As for us, we will be OK, too, as you get back to your family life and I try to find another TV show to fill the gaping void in mine. Thanks so much, Jody and all—it's been a real privilege to be part of the best Idol blog in history!

Meizel out.

Katherine Meizel is the author of Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol and a visiting assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Oberlin Conservatory.

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